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Could better roads mean better business?
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Scott Waller, Executive Vice President of the Mississippi Economic Council, says some businesses have to truck their goods 100 miles out of the way because of dangerous roads. He says the issue impacts attracting new industry and public safety. Last summer, Waller explains, MEC created a task force of 12 business leaders from various industries to oversee an independent research project. They are studying cost effective, long range methods to maintain roads and bridges, as well as utilize air, water and railways, to reduce wear on roads.

"The actual research is being done by the University of Southern Mississippi and two different entities at Mississippi State-the Stennis Insitute for Government and researchers within the Industrial Engineering Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems." said Waller.

Waller says the painstaking process includes identifying and polling all stakeholders including residents and local leaders and comparing types of road surfaces and their life spans.

"The university research is completely different and independent and that will give us the facts that we're looking for." said Waller.

State Senator Willie Simmons, who chairs the transportation committee is looking forward to the results of MEC's study. He says, the state's 18 cent gas tax has been in place since the 1987 Road Improvement plan, and it's not enough to maintain Mississippi's roads and bridges.

"They gave us the solution to generating the dollars in how we were going to build these four-lane highways within 50 miles of every citizen in the state, but they did not give us any money to maintain it and that's what we're faced with today." said Simmons.

Scott Waller says their report will include every conceivable option available to fund upgrading the state's infrastructure. He says it will be released in November, during MEC's Annual Tour of the State